Last year Wilkinson County Superior Court Judge John L. Parrott held both Elizabeth Hadaway and her lawyer, Dana P. Johnson, in contempt for disobeying his order that denied Hadaway’s adoption petition in part because Hadaway had been living with her same-sex partner.
Ten-day jail sentences for Hadaway and Johnson—not the fate of a girl named Emma—were at issue in the appeals. Emma, now 7, was reunited with Hadaway last May after further proceedings.
Parrott’s order had given custody to Emma’s natural mother, and Parrott held Hadaway and her lawyer in contempt for what the judge said was Hadaway’s failure to give up custody of the girl. But another judge later found that the natural mother, who had asked Hadaway to take Emma, refused to take the child back.
Appeals court Chief Judge Anne Elizabeth Barnes, joined by Presiding Judge J.D. Smith and Judge M. Yvette Miller, wrote that Parrott’s order “did not address Hadaway’s or Johnson’s obligations,” so they could not have violated it.
Although American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Kenneth Y. Choe argued before the appeals court in September that Parrott also erred by “accomodat[ing]” societal prejudice against gays and lesbians, the appeals court didn’t reach that issue. But Choe said Monday he wasn’t upset about that, noting the state already had “good law” on gay parenting.
Charles M. Cork III represented Johnson, a fellow Macon lawyer, in her appeal. Johnson said Monday she is wrapping up her law practice as a result of the ordeal, noting it cost her $20,000 in legal fees, and hopes to go into teaching. But she called the ruling “good news,” noting also that the State Bar had said it could find no cause for Parrott’s bar complaint against her to go forward.
Johnson said Emma was doing well, saying, “That’s the biggest miracle in the entire mess.”
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